What does a playful historical romp through Marie Antoinette’s eccentricities have to say about the contemporary human experience?
According to Project SEE Theatre, whose production of David Adjmi’s “Marie Antoinette” runs through Sunday at the Lucille Little Theater at Transylvania University, the satire holds up a mirror to examine the absurdity of excess, from the personal to the political, which are sometimes the same thing.
“It’s a conversation about entertaining ourselves to death,” says Ellie Clark, one of Project SEE’s co-founders. “I think that’s very important today. We have this idea of social media and fake news and this detachment we have from people because we read what they’re doing online but we don’t know what’s happening to them personally.”
“We don’t talk. We don’t sit face to face,” says Clark, who plays Antoinette. “There’s a very strong statement about class divide and revolution in the play and how we’re always on the brink of revolution.”
We’re odd little creatures in that we find a show we know we have to do, or want to do, and do it.
Ellie Clark, actor and Project SEE co-founder
The show is the culmination of the university’s professional theater residency program, now in its second year, and is financed by the Dixon White Fund, which also covers ticket cost. That means admission is free, but reservations are recommended.
The program supports the partnership between a professional theater artist or company and Transy theater students on the production of a full-length play.
Ten Transy students will perform onstage alongside veteran professional actors, including Clark and fellow Project SEE co-founder Evan Bergman, as well as Avery Wigglesworth, Nick Vannoy, Tim Hull, Ginna Hoben and Drew Davidson. Several students also work on the technical side of the show.
“It’s a great way for us to tie in our love for theater training,” says Clark.
Project SEE also participated in the residency’s inaugural production last May with its production of “No Spring Chicken,” starring Hoben in a one-woman show about being pregnant at 40. It was the first show the company had produced since 2013.
Founded in 2010 by Clark, Bergman and Transy theater professor Sullivan Canaday White, who directs “Marie Antoinette,” Project SEE produced about two shows a year until going on hiatus while Clark and Bergman pursued master’s degrees in fine arts. Bergman attended the University of Virginia and Clark attended Ohio University.
You’re laughing, and then slowly the show evolves into this kind of beast of a show that hits home pretty hard.
Clark says the professional residency lets them continue their artistic collaboration despite their commitments.
“We’re odd little creatures in that we find a show we know we have to do, or want to do, and do it,” Clark says. “Working this way gives you more liberty to find the piece that suits you or your company. With the three of us liking to work together so much, it’s nice to find a piece that excites us all, and that seems like an important piece to do right now.”
Audiences can expect a quirky mash-up of historical anecdotes and facts with twists and turns that producers hope will surprise and compel audiences to draw parallels between absurdities in revolutionary France and 21st-century America. Technical elements, including Missy Johnston’s period-piece-with-a-twist costuming, support White’s colorful vision of Adjmi’s script, which was dubbed a “jagged yet elegant historical riff” by Time Out New York.
“You’re laughing, and then slowly the show evolves into this kind of beast of a show that hits home pretty hard,” says Clark, who has one more year of a three-year master of fine arts program left. Bergman earned his degree last spring.
Clark says she, Bergman and White remain open about Project SEE’s trajectory and are not sure whether they will return to producing more than one show each season. For now, the focus continues to be on finding compelling pieces with a sense of urgency or relevance to contemporary times.
Candace Chaney is a writer and critic based in Lexington.
What: Project SEE Theatre production of David Adjmi’s satire.
When: 7:30 p.m. Through May 20, 2 p.m. May 21
Where: Little Theatre, Transylvania University, 300 N. Broadway
Tickets: Free, but reservations are recommended